Line-of-duty police deaths surge in 2020 as coronavirus, calls to 'defund' pose challenge to officers' safety

Violence surges in cities amid defund the police movement

Former homicide detective Ted Williams gives reaction and analysis on ‘America’s Newsroom’

The number of police officers who have died in the line of duty in 2020 has jumped by nearly 60% compared to last year as the ongoing spread of the coronavirus continues to take its toll on America’s men and women in blue. 

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is reporting 210 total fatalities this year – a 58% increase from the 133 it recorded in 2019. 

"The year 2020 has proven to be a horrific year for law enforcement," the organization told Fox News in a statement. "America’s law enforcement officers were confronted with the pandemic, protests, and defund police movements, which made it not only one of the most challenging years in recent memory, but one of the deadliest." 

Members of the Lubbock Police Department honor guard stand by the casket during the funeral service for Officer Nicholas Reyna, on Saturday, Jan. 18, in Lubbock, Texas. Reyna died after being hit by a car while working the scene of a traffic accident.
(AP/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

"The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic has accounted for more officer line-of-duty deaths than firearms or traffic fatalities combined," it added. "NLEOMF has also determined that the total number of fatalities will be the largest since the terrorist attacks in 2001." 

Preliminary statistics on the memorial website indicate there were 118 deaths this year from "other causes" such as the coronavirus, while 48 were "firearms-related" and 44 were "traffic-related." The organization plans to issue a final report in early January.  

Statistics from the Officer Down Memorial Page, which also tracks the deaths of officers in the U.S. and its territories, indicate that a higher number have died on-duty this year: 296, with the contagious virus being by far the leading cause. Last year, it reported that 148 officers died in the line of duty.  

The website is attributing 179 of this year’s deaths to complications caused by the coronavirus, 45 to gunfire and 20 to automobile crashes, amongst other sources. 

Mount Holly Police Officer Tyler Herndon, 25, was killed in December during a shootout with a burglary suspect in North Carolina. (Mount Holly Police Department)

Capt. Jonathan Parnell of the Detroit Police Department became the first officer to die from COVID-19, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. He passed away on March 24, following a law enforcement career that spanned more than three decades. 

The 296 deaths this year are also the highest annual total that the Officer Down Memorial Page has recorded since 1932, when it tracked 318 deaths. 

"The only constant in 2020 has been the ever-changing challenges that law enforcement officers have faced — from a pandemic to civil unrest," Patrick Yoes, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told Fox News. 

"The demonization of police has made communities and law enforcement jobs less safe. Violence targeting police officers is on the rise," he added, citing the FOP’s own data. "The number of officers shot is up 7% from last year’s historic numbers and up 29% compared to 2018. As of December 28, 311 officers have been shot, and 47 of those officers have died this year." 

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B.L.U.E. Help, an organization that tracks law enforcement suicides, also has recorded 159 this year. 

"However, throughout all the adversity, our nation’s law enforcement officers will continue to put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve the communities that we love," Yoes said. 

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